State regulators order large-scale pot recall for 'inaccurate' testing

'Nightmare' for Lansing shops; labs owned by ex-cops; serious health concerns flagged

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THURSDAY, Nov. 18 — A massive statewide recall of marijuana has forced just about every pot shop in Greater Lansing — and hundreds more across Michigan — to pull thousands of products from their shelves due to concerns over inaccurate test results from a lab in Lansing.

A notice issued yesterday by the state's Marijuana Regulatory Agency called for the recall of untold thousands of cannabis products that were tested by Viridis Laboratories in Lansing and Bay City between Aug. 10 and Nov. 16. State officials couldn’t immediately quantify how many products were recalled because of the enormity of the recall — which has been estimated to have affected more than 50,000 lbs. of products sold at more than 500 provisioning centers across the state of Michigan.

The recall, which was specifically attributed by state officials  to “inaccurate and/or unreliable” test results,  applies to all marijuana flower, edibles and other products tested by the laboratory over the last three months — except for inhalable concentrates like vape cartridges, live resin and distillate.

“Consumers with weakened immune systems or lung disease are at the highest risk for health-related incidents such as aspergillosis, which can impact lung function, if these potentially harmful products are consumed,” according to a press release sent yesterday.

A spokesman for the MRA declined to elaborate further about the testing concerns while a state investigation at the Lansing and Bay City labs continues this week, though research shows that aspergillosis could be triggered as a result of consuming cannabis contaminated with heavy metals — something that is supposed to be weeded out by testing at a licensed laboratory.

Before gummies and eighters can hit pot shop shelves, state law requires the products to undergo a rigorous series of tests for the presence of microbes, moisture, pesticides, heavy metals and other contaminants. Labs like Viridis also test for THC content and terpene profiles to ensure customers have as much detail as possible about precisely what’s getting them high.

Aspergillosis has been tied in other situations to contaminated vaporizer cartridges — and it usually takes a while for symptoms like coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath to develop, according to the American Lung Society.

Those who consumed the products and are experiencing any subsequent adverse health reactions should report them at 517-284-8599.

Todd Welch, the chief operating officer of Viridis Laboratories, told City Pulse in May that his Lansing and Bay City locations provided testing services for more than 250,000 lbs. of licensed cannabis products annually. He also said the company was responsible for testing about 67% of all of the recreational and medical weed sold in the state of Michigan over the last five years.

State officials declined to comment on whether this week’s recall was the largest in state history.

A former Michigan State Police employee, Welch runs the laboratory alongside two other police veterans — former MSP toxicologist Dr. Michelle Glinn and CEO Greg Michaud, who kept watch over eight crime labs as director of the forensic science division before he became a trooper and retired as a captain. In total, Viridis operates at least 15,000 square feet of laboratory space with at least 40 employees. Welch had also voiced plans for continued expansion over the summer.

Welch also spent about an hour with this reporter in May, touting the extreme precautions that the laboratory supposedly takes to ensure its cannabis products remain free of contamination and ensure that test results are accurate — the exact problems identified yesterday by the MRA.

In a statement, Michaud labeled Viridis Laboratories as “the highest accredited cannabis testing facility in the state” that “sets the standard" for accurate cannabis testing in Michigan and keeps the health and safety of medical and recreational pot smokers as a “top priority.”

“While we strongly disagree with this decision and firmly stand by our test results, we are fully cooperating with the MRA and working closely with our customers to minimize interruptions and retest affected products at no cost,” Michaud added, also noting that cannabis testing at both the Lansing and Bay City locations will continue amid the state investigation.

Those who bought recalled products may also return them to the dispensary where they bought them for disposal — but they won’t necessarily be entitled to a refund. Nothing in state law requires them to be issued.

Individual pot shops that bought those products may also be out of luck, depending on whether their supply chain partners decide to volunteer to offer a refund for the affected products.

In the meantime, the pot shops that still have the recalled products can either destroy the remaining inventory themselves or send products back to their original source to be destroyed. Alternatively, they can also be retested for microbials and put back on the shelves if they pass.

The list of local retailers affected by the recall includes but is not limited to Bazonzoes, Cannaisseur, Edgewood Wellness, First Class, Gage, Homegrown, JARS, Pure Canna, Pure Options, Skymint, Botanical Co., Local Roots, Lume, Oz Cannabis, Pincanna and Pleasantrees.

Budtenders at First Class Cannabis Co. labeled the recall as a “nightmare” today, noting they were double checking every bag of weed being sold there this morning to identify the recalled products — which was estimated to include as much as 60% of the products on their shelves.

The recall also posed a disruption to the members of the Michigan Cannabis Manufacturers Association — which for months has lobbied for legislation that would require caregivers to have products tested at labs like Viridis. The group also issued a statement in response to the recall:

“At the MCMA, we believe all cannabis should be tested, labeled and tracked and we believe cannabis should be regulated like alcohol, medicine and food products to promote patient and consumer safety,” it reads. “While the recall announced today by the MRA will be disruptive to the business operations of some of our members as well as the industry as a whole, product recalls are sometimes a necessary function of a licensed, regulated market to ensure product safety. Unfortunately, two-thirds of the cannabis sold in Michigan emanates from the unregulated, unlicensed and illicit market, which puts patient and consumer safety at risk.”

Stay tuned for continued coverage as the state investigation at Viridis Laboratories unfolds.

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